29/08/2013 - 15:37

Mandurah laps up election largesse

29/08/2013 - 15:37

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Both sides of politics have suddenly become enthused about the provision of better sporting facilities, and Mandurah stands to win … big time.

DETERRENT: Memories of swimming lessons at the Applecross Jetty in the Swan River are not particularly fond ones, thanks to the jellyfish. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Both sides of politics have suddenly become enthused about the provision of better sporting facilities, and Mandurah stands to win ... big time.

A family member (and keen lap swimmer) recently planning for an overnight business trip to Mandurah rang the council there to find out the location of the best 50-metre pool in the area.

The surprise answer was that there isn’t one; not just a ‘best’ one – there is no 50-metre pool in Mandurah.

Can you believe that Western Australia’s second-biggest city doesn’t have an Olympic-sized swimming pool?

I thought only Africa lacked such community resources. We all remember Eric the Eel from Equatorial Guinea, who became a celebrity at the 2000 Olympics despite never having seen a 50-metre pool before arriving in Sydney.

The average person doing laps in a Perth pool could probably outswim Eric Moussambani Malonga, who only won his first heat in the 100 metres because his rivals were disqualified.

There is a high chance, though, that many in Mandurah who have not ventured far from home may likewise never have swum in an Olympic-sized pool. Eric the Eel would probably give them a close race.

Presumably the presence of so much water in natural formations, such as the Peel Inlet, and artificial constructs such as the city’s canals and the Dawesville cut have meant the local population was not feeling the need for such a pool.

In fairness, the thought of aquatic activities in Mandurah do bring to mind fishing and crabbing, rather than dull old laps in some landlocked tub of sterile water.

And of course the lack of a pool didn’t stop an Aussie winning at the Olympics. Dawn Fraser’s swimming career started at the Balmain Sea Baths, now called the Dawn Fraser Pool, which is Australia’s oldest remaining pool and doesn’t so much exist in the sea as it does Sydney harbour at the end of the Parramatta River.

Still, Ms Fraser was a rarity.

My first recollection of using a full-length swimming ‘pool’ was at the local primary school lessons in the river off the Applecross Jetty. I certainly can’t say my memories of thrashing about in a roped-off part of the Swan are fond ones, given you could just about walk across the water because it was so thick with jellyfish.

Could this poor start to my budding career be blamed for my failure to ever reach Olympic qualifying times? Of course, that’s a rhetorical question.

Nevertheless, it seems the next generation of potential Olympic swimmers from Mandurah might not have this excuse after this election – no matter who wins.

Both sides of politics are promising to pitch in $10 million towards the $35 million cost of the Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre redevelopment, construction of which is expected to start in December and take about two years.

The redevelopment involves adding an outdoor 50-metre pool – possibly with heat supplied from geothermal energy – and modernising the existing centre, which was opened in 1982.

The promise to fund the centre is part of a series of election-related, marginal-seat pork barrelling with a sporting theme across the country.

Labor has committed far more to this particular version of election generosity on a national scale, but from both sides most of the sums involved come in at less than $1 million, showing that not every figure in political promises has to have nine zeroes at the end of it.

Very little of this is devoted to WA, however.

And no-one, I might note, was asking how the Mandurah centre promises were costed.


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